JACKSONVILLE – First things first: Let's go over what this list isn't.
It's not a list of who might be the Jaguars' best players next season, and it's not a list of the Jaguars' best young players.
No, this is a list of five players who could have "breakout" seasons in 2015, and as a result, names such as Brandon Linder, Luke Joeckel and even Sen'Derrick Marks aren't on the list. Linder and Joeckel are offensive linemen, and it's hard for linemen to have breakout seasons.
Marks is a veteran defensive tackle, and while his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament will be a big story, he has broken out the last couple of seasons.
No, this list by definition will be youth-heavy and skill-position-heavy, and following the 2015 offseason program, it appears the Jaguars have more than a few young players with the skill to break out in 2015.
One final note:
Quarterback Blake Bortles isn't on the list, either. Not because he can't break out. And not that he isn't on his way to being a franchise quarterback. He looks like he could be significantly improved. While Bortles likely will experience the same ups and downs and highs and lows of most young quarterbacks, if the fundamental work he did in the offseason holds deep into the season, then yes … he could qualify as a breakout player.
Still, we've discussed Bortles ad nauseam this offseason. Let's take some space to look at five players not named Blake Bortles who could break out in 2015 …
1.Allen Robinson.Talk about a fast move to No. 1. Robinson missed the end of last season with a stress fracture in his foot, and then was limited early in the on-field portion of the offseason program. Once he returned to full speed around the third week of organized team activities early this month, he emerged quickly as one of the standout players of the offseason. He had the offseason look of a player on the rise, and if that look translates to the regular season, he could be a go-to player at a position where the Jaguars haven't had one in a while.
2.Marqise Lee/Allen Hurns.Just because we've talked about Robinson a lot in the last few weeks doesn't mean he's the Jaguars' only young, ascending receiver. Lee missed OTAs and minicamp with a knee injury, but he was close to being on the field during minicamp in June. He appears to have matured after struggling early in his rookie season and he has more explosiveness than any other Jaguars wide receiver. Hurns has been steady, consistent and reliable in a little more than a year since joining the Jaguars. He must reduce his drops, but he showed last season he can get open against NFL defenses.
3.Aaron Colvin.You didn't hear as much about Colvin or other defensive players during OTAs and minicamps as you did offensive players. That's the nature of offseason work, during which it's far easier to evaluate and discuss offense. There's a lot to like about the Jaguars' young secondary. Dwayne Gratz, Demetrius McCray, Davon House all drew praise from coaches. That already makes the cornerback position a deep group, and coaches like Gratz's progress. Colvin's presence makes it even deeper. He began the offseason working at the nickelback position, and it's likely he opens training camp there. But the way Colvin is progressing, it's also likely the Jaguars get him on the field as much as possible.
4.Telvin Smith.Smith – like Colvin – didn't get discussed too, too much in OTAs and minicamps. Again, that's not unusual for defensive players in unpadded work. Smith did enough late last season to merit being a potential breakout player. After playing well in nickel situations early in the season, the Jaguars moved him into a starting role to see if he could maintain his play-making ability and consistency. He made some rookie mistakes, but overall he played at a high enough level late in the season that General Manager David Caldwell spoke of him after the season as being a potential Pro Bowl-level player. He added some weight this offseason, and while he's still relatively light for a linebacker, he plays bigger than his size. But it's game-changing speed that makes him a player to watch entering 2015.
5.T.J. Yeldon.A rookie? As a breakout player? That's admittedly a reach, but this is about speculation and it's not hard to speculate that Yeldon has a chance to make an impact. He was the No. 36 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft and while rookies often need time to get acclimated, running backs often make a quicker impact than other positions. Yeldon looked smooth and showed quick acceleration during non-padded work – the type of skills that can translate into being effective when pads go on. The Jaguars expect the offensive line to improve, and Yeldon is part of what appears to be a deep backfield, but he has the early look of a player who can break out as a rookie.